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'Cathy' creator honored her comic strip hangs in 'world's most important museum' — the refrigerator

"Cathy" comic strip creator Cathy Guisewite reflects on her career as strip nears end
By Universal Uclick Modified: August 11, 2010 at 2:59 pm •  Published: August 11, 2010

Q: What has been your favorite part of doing the strip?

CG: I've loved creating something that helps women feel they're not alone.

I've loved creating something that men will never completely understand.

I've loved getting to connect with women where we live and aren't usually seen: weeping on the floor of the swimsuit dressing room ... planted in front of the freezer at 2 a.m.... stuck behind the desk in the fabulous powersuit we couldn't zip after lunch... standing in the ladies room rehearsing "date" conversations or trying to blow-dry the part of the outfit that just fell in the toilet... and that secret special place in our brains that we go to where we can believe, just for a little bit, that the right new pair of sparkly, stiletto sandals will fix everything.

Q: In what ways have you seen the strip impact others?

CG: I'm extremely proud that my work's been hung on the world's most important museum: the refrigerator door. It doesn't get anymore significant than to be displayed that close to someone's food.

My favorite letters have been from mother/daughter teams who have written to tell me the strip has helped keep them speaking to each other. My own mother, incredibly, still cuts out my strip and sends it to me with little notes saying, "See? We're not the only ones."

Besides the fact that I work alone, I'm a really solitary person by nature. Except for family, I go huge stretches of time without seeing or talking to anyone. When I have gone to book signings or given speeches, it's been incredibly moving to me to meet, and feel an instant connection with, women who have followed my work.

I've had women hug me with tears rolling down their faces and tell me how reading the strip helped them through horrible, lonely times in the exact same way that writing the strip helped me. The women who have shared that with me have changed my life. I've gone home so inspired... and then, of course, so utterly panicked that I'll never be able to create anything else that will live up to the high regard these beautiful women have of me.

Q: What are your favorite "Cathy" storylines, and why are they your favorites?

CG: I've loved getting to scream for all women at the swimwear designers... to defend our need to have 15 virtually identical but completely different pairs of black shoes... to question the male brain's ability to remember every play of a football game twelve years ago, yet forget that Valentine's Day is on Feb. 14... to explain concepts: Why chocolate eaten directly from the freezer has fewer calories because of the extra energy the body expends trying to not rip the fillings out while eating it. Why a salad with 8 ounces of ham and cheese and 2 cups of croutons has 500 fewer mental calories than a sandwich.

I've loved celebrating the giant tangle of mothers and daughters.

I've been criticized sometimes for reinforcing negative stereotypes of women by writing so much about weight and shopping, but to me these subjects are a rich microcosm of the extra pressures and expectations that women live with every second of the day. Now, with so many powerful, positive role models, they're also a microcosm of the feelings of isolation women feel when we try to live up to 10 images at once and can't. In what universe would men one second of life trying to squash themselves into "sexy workout wear"?

Q: Can you offer any insight as to how the strip might end?

CG: The strip will end with me weeping at my drawing board, mascara and anti-aging serum dripping all over the blank page... one hand clutching a pen, one clutching a spoon... on the speakerphone with my incredible parents, snapping at them for calling with their loving support right when I'm so busy being hysterical... frantically rethinking my whole decision... . Oh. You mean how will it end in the paper? If I had the sort of brain capable of planning two weeks ahead I never would have been able to create this strip for the last 34 years.

Q: Looking forward, what are you hoping to do with your free time?

CG: For almost 34 years I've dealt with every frustration by writing a comic strip about it... so I imagine for quite awhile there will be a little trail of crumpled-up drawings following me wherever I go.

Besides finally being available 24/7 to hover over my 18-year-old daughter and parents and drive them insane with my love, attention and opinions, I want to pursue my lifelong goal of cleaning out the trunk of my car.

Most of my huge fantasies at this age involve the storage room: repackaging the past 60 years into neat little plastic boxes ... labeling and backing up five crates of miscellaneous family videos... all 45 million digital and nondigital photos edited, organized and popped into pretty albums.

When I even think about it, I start seeing the words on the page. I know my next creative project isn't far behind.

Q: What would you like to say to your fans?

CG: I'm profoundly grateful to Universal Uclick and the newspapers for taking a chance on me, standing by me all these years and allowing me to have this incredible career.

To the readers who have cheered, cried, screamed, stomped, rallied, wailed, and started all over again and again with me, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will always be there with you in the great dressing room of life, reassuring you you're not alone, cheering you on to march out into the world with your head held high, and giving you permission to go by way of the food court.


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